Monday, March 15, 2010

SIR Spring 200K: Au Revoir et Merci


If the entries in this blog are any indication, I've been off the bike for a while. Since November. My R-12 streak - which was at 27 months - came to an end. I think Thai Nguyen is the current leader at 48+. Four R-12s: Mon Dieu! Duane Wright is not that far behind Thai. Enough about them; this is about ME! :)

5:40a: I rode to Kingsgate Park and Ride in Kirkland to be picked up by Thai. I forgot my helmet and had to ride back, which means I missed my appointed hour of 6am by 2 minutes. I didn't know this at the time, but slogging to make time was going to be the theme. We chatted about randonneuring, PBP 2007, and rides past, including Thai's 1000k-on-fixie.

The start was full of riders, fulfilling Greg's desire to go out with record participation. The Coxes, like the Thomses are one of the two ride organizers who open their homes to us. The hill to Greg's house, and the hill up to Mark Thomas' house occupy a special place in SIR ride lore. Greg has helped out more than one rider (including this one) with his endless supply of gloves, helmets, water bottles, and bike parts saving many a rider from a DNS or a DNF. The food, course, attention and encouragement are all top notch. I was a bit sad about this being the final Chili Feed. Maybe Greg will do it again in a few years time. ;)

Start to Town and Country Foods

After some ride instructions, which included the ominous insertion of "a bonus vista", we set off. I hung out safely in the back, no point venturing forward when you are going to get spit out faster than a rotten peanut. I knew exactly where this "bonus" vista would be, having ridden one of the Winter Training rides in years past up that very "vista". I was quite nervous about this ride: I was croaking. Only seeing several well-known faces (though some friends were nowhere to be found) kept my mind off my task for the day: to show up back at Greg's house riding my bicycle before 8:30p.

I rode with a huge bunch, flying down the hill on 240th street, and braking severely at times for the lights. Mike Huber, an old buddy on these rides, pulled up next to me and we started catching up with each others lives. Just before the first climb, Mike found out that he forgot his water bottles at the start. I had two, and I was pretty sure I could buy another water bottle along the way, and so I gave him one of my water bottles.

They pulled away on the climb, and the first of many chain popping offs started. I had just replaced the chain, and it kept falling off the back when I attempted to use the lowest cog in the back. Frank Wilson, stopped to see if I was ok, but I waved him on, leery of delaying him. I eventually made it to the top, and I pulled over to look at my problem. Eric Simmons and Frank stopped, and Frank adjusted my derailleur, and hopefully things would be well again. Things improved tremendously after that, but I couldn't use my lowest cog throughout the ride.

As we headed toward the water, I knew that I was in for some pain. I made it up the first little grade ok (and Frank even rode back down to see if I was ok, when my chain popped off again), but I didn't have it in me to ride the next little bit. Halfway up, I swallowed my pride and started walking. The 24" gear to the rescue! I didn't want photo evidence published, but I was in no shape to ride up that grade. Eventually near the top I got on my bike again, and Joe Platzner took a photo of me riding up that grade on my bike. I finally got to Town and Country Foods, and met Mark Thomas, Vincent Muoneke and Amy Pieper, and was told that I had a whopping 13 minutes in the bank. The first "Should I just quit?" thought just entered my mind, but I quickly put it away: there was no way I was going to DNF the final Chili Feed!

Town and Country Foods to Black Diamond Bakery

At the coffee store, I ate a couple of donuts and some salted peanuts in record time, and got back on my bike. There were four of us vying for Lanterne Rouge: Eric Simmons, Frank Wilson, David Smith and myself. (though I didn't know that Paul Johnson was behind us, having suffered an endless succession of flats). This group helped me forget my "DNF' thoughts, and I focused on getting to the next control. Another climb and no chain incidents.

Green Valley Road was as pretty as ever, with the farms, the fog, and the blue skies. I was stopped just before the Black Diamond climb to apply bag balm, and Chuck Hoffman passed me with a "stop lollygagging, and start riding". The climb went rather uneventfully, but I did have to zigzag to reduce the grade. I finally made the control to a huge collection of volunteers: Mark Thomas, Peter McKay, Amy Pieper, Bob Brudvik, and the Nussbaums. I had 8 minutes to spare. Duane Wright was leaving the control as I pulled in.

Black Diamond Bakery to Greenwater

An enthusiastic and cheerful group of volunteers will do for your brain what several hours in the bank cannot do, and that is provide welcome distraction through conversation, and lots of encouragement. When I professed doubts about making the Greenwater control it was quickly shot down by Mark and Amy with a look of absolute certainty on their faces (fakers!): "Oh, you will make Greenwater". Ralph was adamant that I would make time on the next leg: "We got here at about the same time as you did, and we finished in 10 hours and change". It is words like these that help you keep going for it's harder to quit when you know that others want to see you succeed. Thanks guys! I might have thrown in the towel here had it not been for you.

All of the randonneurs had left. I got two blueberry strudels, sat outside and and joked with the volunteers about the fastest riders, and moved on right as the control closed. The rain started on Black Diamond Road, and matured to a full-on hail session just before the "Secret" control on Cumberland-Kanaskat Road. There was also a bit of headwind, but when I arrived at the "usual" location of the control, but there was no one to be found. I soldiered on, into the wind and the hail, and the downpour, and after about 2 miles, I saw Mark Roberts on the side of the road with the SIR control sign. I stopped just enough to get my card signed and see if they had any food. But Mark and Rick Haight were both out of food, and so I went to the Cumberland store to get a Pay-Day bar.

At the left turn onto Greenwater, David Smith and I pulled over for a moment. We had 2 hours and 2 minutes to go 17 miles. I was sure I wouldn't make it, but I was determined to try. I took off at first, and the climb to Mud Mountain Dam Road had me by the @#$@#, but I got to the top, and started seeing riders coming back to make the left turn. I would have killed to be in their shoes. Dozens and Dozens of cheering faces went by, offering recognition and encouragement. The temperature kept dropping as I neared Greenwater, and I could see my own breath for the first time all day. I had no time to stop and put on clothing.

Riding with no time banked isn't a problem IF one has the ability to bank some. The prospect of a mechanical delay or getting lost was terrifying. Mike Huber was headed back the other way and rode over to my side to thank me for lending him my water bottle. I feel now that I acted rudely by not slowing down to talk to him, but I had no choice: I was focused on making Greenwater. Sorry, Mike!

I had dropped Dave Smith, and he hadn't caught up to me at all, and I suspected a DNF. Two miles from the control, he blew by me dead set on making the Control. I pulled into Greenwater at 4:06 with 2 minutes to spare. I got the clerk to sign my card, and he signed it with "4:11", which was 3 minutes outside the time limit. I had to show him my phone to get him to change the time. The store had a nice sign inside that said "Welcome, Bike Racers".

Greenwater to Enumclaw

I was relieved. The hardest section of the ride was over. Sure, 218th Ave loomed large, and so did the final climb to Greg's house, but they were minutes of effort, not hours. They were all out of Pay-Day bars, and so I was forced to buy a Snickers bar. Duane Wright was leaving the control, and I found out that Dave Smith had suffered a flat, which was why he wasn't ahead of me by a half-hour at least.

The ride back from Greenwater wasn't quite as fast as I expected, but I felt good nevertheless. David Smith again blew by me, and this time there was no catching him. A wee bit of rain also started falling at this time. The misty sort. The splash from vehicles on the highway made things dirtier than they needed to be.

As I made the turn onto Mud Mountain Dam Road, I saw two people pulled over on the side fixing a flat, and after a quick "Are you ok?" I moved on (shame on me!). The rain started hammering down, and the descent down Mud Mountain Dam road, ordinarily no cup of tea, was pretty painful. Stinging rain on ones face while going downhill in excess of 20+ mph! Yippee!

I spied a green jacket ahead, and caught up to Duane Wright, with whom I rode to the Enumclaw control under clear skies. The time was 5:57. I had more than 25 minutes in the bank for the first time. I finally knew that I would finish the ride.

Enumclaw to the Finish

We drank Hot Chocolate, commiserated with the clerk who had been signing cards all day. Our riders were well behaved however, and she had no complaints. We all donned out night riding gear. As the clock struck 6:10, I had the hankering to move on again, so telling Duane that I would ride slowly, I took off into the fast approaching darkness.

I knew this next stretch almost by-heart, so I made my way as fast as I could, but upon starting the climb up 218th, I finally remembered that I told Duane that I would soft pedal, so I really backed off, and waited for him about a 100 meters up the climb. Duane wasn't far behind, and by virtue of his fixed-gear, had only one speed to go. He didn't weave back and forth, and maintained an even pace straight up the face of the hill. We were also joined at this point by two other gentlemen, who I didn't catch the name of, and the three of us caught Duane waiting for us at the next turn.

The next few miles are almost entirely downhill, so we all hammered to make some time, and when we got near the fire station, the two gentlemen peeled off. Duane took off again up the hill, but I wasn't that far behind. We rode in together to finish. I was so relieved! No DNF! But a new Personal Worst at the 200k distance. 13 hours and 6 minutes. As Jason Dul says, DFL (Dead F-ing Last) is better than DNF. :)

Post ride

There were several volunteers cheering for us at the finish: I saw Dan Jensen, Eric Vigoren, Maggie Williams, Greg Cox, Lyn Gill, Mark Thomas, and Peter McKay, all of whom offered congratulations. I picked up the water bottle that Mike Huber had returned. I had some incredible Vegetarian Chili, and fruits. Thanks Greg and Mary for so many years of fun.

Mark gave me a ride home, and I tried my best to butter the President by saying nice things about Apple. Time to get in shape for the 300! It promises to be considerably flatter than this one. I'd be happy to just finish that one too :)

R-1 in the books.


Susan said...

Good to see you back on the bike and back on your blog!

Todd said...

We passed each other just above Mud Mtn. Road, and you yelled a big "HEY!" with a cheery smile. Looked like you were having FUN!

Anonymous said...

Tough as nails, man! Great to see you back at the rides.

- Jason

tripieper said...

Congratulations Narayan. Coming back after a broken hip has to be tough but you did it with aplomb. Sorry I didn't get to see your triumphant finish - I was still suffering a bit of jetlag and had to have my driver (Bob B) take me home from Greg's before you arrived. See you soon! Amy

tangobiker said...

contrats, Narayan. Sure I'll be seeing you later on this year.

Doesn't Eric V. have a rather high R-xx count?

Cheers, Bill

Shan said...

Very happy to see that you have recovered from your injury and that your blog updates are back.

Robert H said...

For some reason, this line struck me as especially rando: "They were all out of Pay-Day bars, and so I was forced to buy a Snickers bar."

Congrats on the successful ride. It was a fun read!